The first time I heard someone say “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it,” I burst out laughing and spit my wine across my computer keyboard. My mind had an instant visual of a middle-aged woman sword fighting in nothing but her underwear. My brain goes places others’ don’t.
I decided then and there to start up a “Big Girl Panties Society,” created to celebrate midlife women warriors.
We’ve been through our 20s, when anything was possible. We wanted it all, and we wanted it all at the same time. And we believed we could have it.
Through our 30s, we were focused on career climbing, finding potential soul mates, raising future world leaders, and struggling to make mortgage payments for houses we couldn’t afford.
By 40, we began to come to terms with who we were and what drove us or made us happy. And we began weeding out what didn’t. Many of us were on our second marriages and bearing the battle scars of divorce.
Now we’re 50-something and a bit like the Velveteen Rabbit. He’s a little worn, an ear lopped off, a button or two missing, and seams no longer straight, but a better bunny for his journey. We’re independent, irreverent, opinionated, and fiercely loyal to those we love. We diet if we choose to, but cheat with no apologies. Exercise activities are selected as much for their fun factor as for their ability to give us firm thighs. We’ve discovered that spoiling our grandchildren is easier than raising our kids. We’ve traded stupid stilettos for fabulous flats, and we’re still hot. Sex is better than ever because we’ve learned what we want and we ask for it. We’re happiest when we’re surrounded by friends, sharing a great bottle of wine and laughing ’til our faces hurt.
If you’re a woman warrior, you’re in. But like any club, there are a few rules for membership.
1. You should have experienced some level of menopause. This gives you street cred when the group conversation inevitably turns to how to deal with night sweats and fatigue. We lose patience with 30-year-old Beach Barbies claiming they’ll never take drugs for menopause symptoms because it’s a natural process. It makes us want to smack you and make notes to remind your future estrogen-popping self what a bad-ass you were at 30.
2. You should have a rudimentary knowledge of music from the 70s-80s. At least enough to know that Kanye didn’t “discover” Paul McCartney. How else will you be able to join our nostalgic, wine-induced, group karaoke during girls’ night out?
3. We request that all cell phones be turned off or put on vibrate during group meetings. This includes luncheons, spa days, wine tastings, book club gatherings, in-home retail parties, and shopping excursions. This is our time.
4. You must not use the word “like” more than once in any single sentence.
5. No comments or quips shall be made about the group’s 10 p.m. curfew. If you want to stay and boogie-oogie-oogie (and you should know what that means) until last call, slip quietly into the women’s bathroom until we’ve all gone home.
6. You must be a grandma, be pushing your offspring to make you a grandma, or at least have a grandma in your immediate peer group. This helps us establish that you share the same historical time frame as the rest of the group. And if your boobs haven’t yet fallen off their perch and migrated to your waistline, you have an unfair advantage when it comes time for our coveted, annual summer “Best Boob-Belt” award.
7. You cannot be offended by swearing. We’ve earned it.
8. At any group gathering that involves food, there will be no mention of weight, calories, or diets. We’re 60. We get to eat.
9. There must be at least one current fashion trend in your closet that you’re wearing the second time around.
10. You should be able to recognize at least two elevator songs as those you dated to in your 20s. Extra points are given if you have the original songs on your iPod.
11. You must be willing to view dozens of photos of grandchildren, while listening to lengthy, detailed examples proving unequivocally that the tiny tot is obviously gifted (he can already count to 3!). Requests for references on little Henry’s pre-application into John’s Hopkins, Class of 2032, must be honored.
12. You must agree to share names and contact information, if asked, about where you got those fabulous boots, who cuts your hair, or who does your Botox.
13. No whining. The purpose of our group is to provide support and encouragement to each other. While we’re always willing to lend a shoulder and some advice (if you ask), your repeated, prolonged wailing about circumstances you have no intentions of changing will be respectfully removed from the agenda.
14. What is said among the group, stays in the group. We’re not in high school. Tattling or rumor-spreading about any other member will get your ass summarily booted out the door.
15. You must be able to laugh at yourself. Various body parts have shifted downward like underground fault lines. Hair has stopped growing on our heads, but is now sprouting on our chins. Thighs jiggle when we’re standing still. We gain weight on two Cheerios and a Diet Coke. We wear “age-appropriate” clothing. We have to record any show we want to watch that comes on after 10 p.m. We love sex, but we’re usually too tired to have it. If you don’t see anything funny about this, we’re probably not the group for you.
I suspect that there are lots of women warriors out there. Let’s find each other and celebrate. We’re fabulous.